Monday, September 01, 2008

Formation vs Information

On Sunday I took part in a TV debate about violent crime and what if anything can be done about it. It was pretty humbling to meet some amazing people like Angie Lawrence from Mothers Against Violence and Helen Newlove whose husband Garry was kicked to death only yards from his own front door by a gang of drunken thugs.
There was general consensus around a number of points such as the joke that we know as the British Criminal Justice system. Host Terry Christian seemed to have a bee in his bonnet about providing jobs for the unemployed in deprived communities. It's always hard to get a word in on these sort of shows so I had to wait for a chance to get a point in that wouldn't just be an echo of what everyone else was saying. That opportunity came when we got on to the subject of education.
One of the things I have concluded after years of working with young people is that lots of people are prepared to offer them information. We are after all in the 'information age'. Schools try desperately to fill young heads with facts that can be regurgitated later in the exam hall. If they're progressive they might offer specialisms in 'information technology'. I've sat in on council youth strategy meetings where Connexions and the Youth Service bleat on about frameworks for offering young people IAG (information, advice and guidance). That's all well and good but what about formation?
Formation is the development of deeply rooted character attributes, the shaping of attitude and the expression of human qualities such as empathy, forgiveness, compassion, patience, generosity and humour. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the only way to change our nation is to emphasise and maximise the formative potential of our social environments. The home, schools and colleges, workplaces, recreational spaces, faith communities, with a bit of re-imagination they can all begin to contribute to bring about the change this nation so desperately needs. It also happens to be an area in which those of us with spiritual insight ought to be able to provide real leadership.

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